Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Columbia University Directors Face Consequences over Antisemitic Texts

Three Columbia University administrators have been placed on involuntary leave for sharing communications which “disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes” while serving on the job, president Minouche Shafik said in a statement on Monday.

The action followed an explosive Washington Free Beacon report which revealed that administrators Susan Chang-Kim, Cristen Kromm, Matthew Patashnick, and Josef Sorett, who is dean of Columbia College, sent a series of text messages which denigrated Jews while spurning their concerns about rising antisemitism and the fate of Israel, denouncing them as “privileged” and venal. The remarks were exchanged amid a deluge of antisemitic incidents at Columbia and specifically denounced Jewish leaders who appeared at the school as panelists to plea for help and explain the link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

“Whether intended as such or not, these sentiments are unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and experiences of members of our Jewish community that is antithetical to our university’s values and the standards we must uphold in our community,” Shafik said. “We are taking action that holds those involved in this incident accountable … more broadly, we will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination [sic] training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of university life.”

According to Columbia provost Angela Olinto, Sorett will remain in his position to “mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability” despite deep-seated opposition among Jewish alumni, faculty, and students to his remaining as dean. Since Tuesday, over 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for his firing, arguing that he “actively joined his colleagues in mocking panelists” and is equally culpable for the comments they wrote.

“The dean is the public face of Columbia College, its culture carrier who must set the ethical and moral standard of the College,” the petition says. “Sorett’s texts and unacceptable follow up, the actions of his team, and his failure to take responsibility for the same highlights his easy willingness to minimize antisemitic bias at Columbia. Sorett’s actions give an explicit endorsement to a culture of antisemitism and demonstrate his flawed judgement, lack of character, and inability to lead at a critical time for Columbia.”

The petition added that Sorett is “wholly discredited in the eyes of alumni and students.”

An Algemeiner review of the texts, which have been shared by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce — a congressional body that is investigating Columbia’s handling of antisemitism — showed that while Sorett did not actively engage in the conversation, he made comments such as “LMAO” [laughing my ass off] and “yup,” affirming the invective of Patashnick, Chang — who described Jewish concerns as “woe is me,” “crazy,”  and “smoke and mirrors” concealing a hidden agenda — and, Kromm, who said, “Amazing what $$$$ can do.”

Columbia University’s disciplining of high level administrators came after a tumultuous year in which pro-Hamas agitators roiled the campus with illegal occupations of school property, vandalism, and antisemitic hate crimes.

“F—k the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds in the weeks after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, according to a lawsuit filed by StandWithUs Legal Center for Justice (SCLJ). Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

After bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on the Jewish people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence, according to the lawsuit. They allegedly beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, calls for help went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held its demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP, a group with numerous ties to terrorist groups, continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

In June, the university settled a lawsuit in which it was accused by a student of neglecting its obligation to foster a safe learning environment. The resolution of the case, first reported by Reuters, calls for Columbia to hire a “Safe Passage Liaison” who will monitor protests and “walking escorts” who will accompany students whose safety is threatened around the campus. Other details of the settlement include “accommodations” for students whose academic lives are disrupted by protests and new security policies for controlling access to school property.